About "My Year of Meats"

buy it | description | excerpt | conversation with ozeki | for readers' groups

When Jane Takagi-Little, an unemployed Japanese-American documentary filmmaker, answers the phone at two in the morning, her life is forever altered. She accepts a job producing My American Wife, a Japanese cooking show, sponsored by BEEF-EX, a Texas-based meat industry lobby organization, intent on selling American beef to Japanese housewives. Jane, a self-described polyracial prototype, takes her television crew on a journey into the nation's heartlands, in search of America's most winning wives and their most mouth-watering recipes for meats. On the road, as she falls in love with an enigmatic saxaphonist named Sloane, she makes some heartbreaking discoveries about love, meat, honor and a hormone called DES, once used to promote growth in cows and to prevent miscarriages in women, which has irrevocably altered the shape of Jane's future.

Meanwhile, an ocean away, Akiko Ueno watches My American Wife and dutifully cooks the Meat Of The Week for her husband, Joichi Ueno, the Tokyo PR rep for BEEF-EX. Nicknamed "John Wayno," he has a fondness for flank steaks and big-busted Texas strippers, and under his critical gaze, Akiko cooks dishes like Coca Cola Roast and Beef Fudge and fills out a weekly questionnaire, rating each show in categories like Authenticity, Wholesomeness and Deliciousness of Meat. Unbeknownst to "John" however, after the dinner dishes are done, Akiko sneaks off to the bathroom and throws up. Akiko is learning something more than just recipes from Jane's programs, and slowly, before she realizes quite what is happening, her life begins to change.

With great humor and warmth, MY YEAR OF MEATS weaves the adventures of these two women around the unforgettable portraits of Jane's extraordinary American wives, in a celebration of the country's diversity and cultural richness. There's even a ghost from the past, Sei Shonagon, author of "The Pillowbook," who shows up from 11th century Japan to offer acerbic and apt observations of the modern world. In the end, as Jane's and Akiko's lives intersect, their triumphs and hard-won understanding illuminate the deepest concerns of our time: how the past informs the present, and how we live and love in an ever-shrinking world.

home | events | about ozeki | books | films | what's new | weblog | links